Skip to main content

Pet insurance advice: Five things to look out for when shopping for the best policy

Pet insurance advice
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In this article on pet insurance advice, we aim to reveal some of the most common questions around pet insurance. There’s no legal requirement to get insurance for your pet, but with vets bills sometimes running into the thousands, it’s the smart choice to get some. 

Dogs and cats are the most common animals to insure, since treating them can generally be expensive, but it’s also wise to consider insuring other types of animal. 

With hundreds of different insurance providers, finding the right policy can be tricky. They often use terms that aren’t obvious to new animal owners. Here we’re going to look at some of the key things you should look out for when picking your pet insurance. Once you've got all the advice you need, head to our Find the best pet insurance guide and shop for the best deals.

1. Is it a ‘lifetime’, ‘non lifetime’ or ‘accident only’ policy?

The most comprehensive type of cover for pets is ‘lifetime’. Essentially this means that your pet is covered for any illness or condition they develop while the policy is active, so long as you keep renewing the policy. 

That means if your dog, for example, developed diabetes, then your insurer would continue to cover it several years after you first took out the policy.

Additionally, you also have ‘per condition’ and ‘annual’ limitations. It might be that your policy has a ‘per condition’ restriction of $2,000/£2,000. So if your dog develops diabetes, but also has to be treated for a broken leg, then the insurer will pay out a maximum of $2,000/£2,000 per condition. Alternatively, if the annual limit is $5,000/£5,000, for example, then any and all conditions up to that amount will be covered, with no per condition limit. 

The problem with comprehensive ‘lifetime’ policies is that they tend to be more expensive than ‘non-lifetime’ or ‘accident only’ policies. If you have a young and healthy pet, you might want to consider non-lifetime or accident-only policies if you’re struggling to afford a more expensive policy, but be aware that any conditions they develop will unlikely to be covered when you come to renew your policy – and could cost you much more in the long run.

2. Will it cover my pet for pre-existing conditions?

The vast majority of pet insurance policies will not cover your pet for any pre-existing condition or illness. You might find some that will cover pre-existing conditions for which treatment ended more than two years ago, so look out for these when shopping around. 

If you’ve got an older pet or one that has suffered from pre-existing conditions in the past, think long and hard before switching providers. It’s always worth phoning up an insurer to ask about pre-existing conditions, as some may be able to offer a bespoke policy that takes such a condition into account (though it’s likely to cost you more money). 

For those who feel that they must get new pet insurance or switch providers, it’s worth ensuring that you have a savings account on standby for any costs you might occur due to such exclusions.

Pet insurance advice

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. What kind of dental cover is included in the policy?

Take a close look at the type of dental cover that is included in your policy. Dogs and cats can accrue expensive dental bills, and sadly this isn’t always covered by your policy. Some policies will only include any dental work that is required as the result of an accident, while others will offer more comprehensive cover. Check the small print to be sure exactly what is and isn’t included. 

4. Does it have any exclusions I should be aware of?

It’s not just pre-existing conditions that might be excluded from your policy. There are also a number of common things that you’re unlikely to get an insurer to pay for – such as spaying or neutering your pet. You’re also unlikely to be covered for any complications or treatments that occur as a result of pregnancy in your animal. 

Routine costs, such as vaccinations, flea and worm treatments are extremely unlikely to be covered too. Pay close attention to the wording of your policy document to make sure you’ve got everything you need – and/or are prepared to meet the cost of such expenses that aren’t included.

An interesting one to look out for is cover for emergency boarding, if something happens to you that means you can’t look after your pet. Perhaps you get taken into hospital yourself, or a flight back from holiday is cancelled – good policies will include this cover as standard.

5. Does it provide me with third-party liability cover?

Generally, when we consider pet expenses we think about vet bills, toys, food, and even the insurance itself. 

Third-party liability cover is important, even if with any luck you won’t actually need it. It covers you should your pet cause damage to somebody else’s property, or cause injury to another person. 

It’s important to make sure your policy includes this, because some cases have been known to run into the hundreds of thousands in damages – which you’d be liable for should you be without insurance. 

Be aware that most insurance companies will ask you if your pet has had any potentially dangerous ‘incidents’ in the past, and may use this to exclude you from third-party cover – that’s why it’s important to get it from the beginning.

It pays to shop around and check the fine print 

We know that trawling through insurance policies isn’t fun, but it really does pay to do your research and make sure you have the right policy for you. To get you started on your search, take a look at our best pet insurance guide for some great policies for your pet.